TREVOR WEEKS: Hedgehogs weighing less as they come out of hibernation earlier

Valley Road Seaford Hedgehog SUS-160118-084528001
Valley Road Seaford Hedgehog SUS-160118-084528001

This weekend we have had a hedgehog in, weighing 550 grams from Valley Road, Seaford. This hedgehog clearly should weigh more like 800-900 grams, and is emaciated.

Luckily finders saw the hedgehog, weighed it and called out WRAS.

A study by St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital showed that hedgehogs are significantly less likely to survive hibernation if weighing less than 600 grams.

Even on TV last week a person being shown as a hedgehog expert stated that hedgehogs need to be over 450 grams or they will die during the winter.

Although this is not wrong, it is confusing for those wondering at what weight we should be concerned and pick up a hedgehog.

At East Sussex WRAS we bring in hedgehogs which are below 600 grams during the winter (early winter when mild we use 500 grams).

Although it is clear that some of the hedgehogs weighing over 450 grams may well survive hibernation, their weight coming out of hibernation will be severely compromised as a result.

Hedgehogs used to hibernate for long periods of time matching the prolonged colder spells we used to have.

The milder winters mean hedgehogs are coming out of hibernation more frequently using up valuable fat reserves.

The more they do this the thinner they become.

When they wake up they struggle to find food during the winter, so by spring they can be in a really bad compromised condition if they didn’t have enough fat reserves at the beginning of winter.

I hate to think how many hedgehogs are dying in hibernation due to low fat reserves and repeatedly having to come out of hibernation.

The problem with some of the more recent studies of lighter hedgehogs surviving hibernation is the weight at which they can come out of hibernation.

This has, in many cases, been very low - almost half their normal body weight. This is not healthy, so surely this is not just about whether they survive but if they survive and come out of hibernation in a healthy condition.

An adult healthy hedgehog’s average weight is 800 to 1,000 grams, so by having a weight of 450 grams being used as a guide to when hedgehogs should be picked up can easily mean fully grown adult hedgehogs which are emaciated could easily be missed, left alone and die.

It is by far better to bring in and take care of hedgehogs under 600 grams than 450 grams.

It is clear that the hedgehog population is decreasing and we keep hearing how everyone is so worried about their decline.

Surely it is better to be over cautious than not cautious enough.

If we are serious about protecting hedgehogs and conserving them then please if you see a hedgehog out during the day at any time of year or if you find a hedgehog under 600 grams during the winter please bring it in for care and contact your local hedgehog rescue.

Rescues this week have been varied. Tony responded to a badger road casualty at 1am Saturday morning sadly the badger passed away just before he arrived.

We had a call out to Uckfield High Street to two different pigeon rescues. The first was trapped in netting behind a shop and we needed ladders to reach the bird, whilst Kai and myself were getting the ladders of the ambulance rescuer Chris ran up the road to Noble Wines who had a white pigeon puffed up sheltering in their doorway not looking well.

The following day we had a call to another black and white pigeon of the same age in Luxford Fields, Uckfield.

You can see video of these rescues on our You Tube Channel at www.youtube.com/user/eastsussexwras, plus that of a fox rescue at Piddinghoe last week too.

We also received an evening call-out from Creams ice-cream parlour in Brighton.

A pigeon has been in the store the previous day and had managed to get himself stuck behind some of the shop fittings.

Rescuers Chris and Laura attended around 10pm.

They assessed the situation and it soon became clear this wasn’t a simple rescue.

The pigeon had managed to get himself trapped in the space between the wall and the shop display, around 10ft down.

Not leaving much room for manoeuvre, rescuers managed to place a net down and use another pole to gently coax the bird into the net.

Once inside rescuers managed to lift him out and get him secured. He is now bedded down at the centre.

Thank you so much to the staff at the store for calling us and being so helpful.

He has a wound on his chest, which has now been treated and he is currently at our hospital.

The swan rescued at Ditchling Common has now been returned to Sussex for release. Due to the amount of line and hooks encountered in the water during the rescue, and that cygnets are in the process of leaving their parents, we decided to release the cygnet at Princes Park in Eastbourne where there is a non-territorial flock of swans.

We also had a very poorly swan found in the middle of a field close to the Anchor Inn at Barcombe.

The young swan was less than 4kg in weight and freezing cold. We gently warmed her up on route up to the Swan Sanctuary where she is being looked after.

WRAS rescuers were also called out to the A22 outside Blackberry Farm near East Hoathly after reports of a fox being struck by a car.

Rescuers from Eastbourne attended and carried out a search of the forest using the ambulances powerful spotlights and on foot with torches.

After a while of searching rescuers stood down.

Hopefully it was only a knock and the fox was just dazed. Thank you to the callers for stopping, it was at least saved from being run over again.

We have also have a road casualty duck hit at Framfield.

Sadly the person who ran over the duck did not stop and left the duck to suffer.

Luckily another motorist did stop and the duck is now in care.

We have also had a lovely little gold crest come in after being caught by a cat and bull finch after flying into a window.

Plus a hedgehog from New Place Close Uckfield, a wandering swan on a road near Princes Park Eastbourne, a little gull from Waitrose Car Park in Uckfield and a road casualty fox in Heathfield.